After more than a month of captivity, seven Filipino seafarers were released by their captors in Nigeria on Sunday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.
In a report to DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., the Philippine Embassy in Abuja confirmed the release of the seven Filipino crew members of MV Glarus.
The seven Filipino seafarers were among the 12 crew members of the Swiss-owned vessel abducted by pirates last 22 September while traveling between the cities of Lagos and Port Harcourt in Nigeria.
Philippine Ambassador to Nigeria Shirley Ho-Vicario said all 12 crew members were released on Sunday.
Vicario said the Filipino seafarers are now in Zurich, Switzerland, from where they will be flown to Manila.
Relatedly, the Philippine Embassy in Nigeria advised all Filipinos in the West African nation to remain indoors amid the growing violent protests.
Vicario said the embassy is now in touch with Filipino community leaders and no Filipinos have so far been reported among the dead and wounded.
Reports place the number of protesters killed from three to 18 after security forces were reported to have opened fire on Shiite protesters demanding the release from detention of their leader.
Violent clashes between police and protesting members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria entered the second day on Tuesday.
The embassy said there are about a hundred Filipinos staying in the capital Abuja where the violence erupted.
Vicario said the embassy has also advised the 3,000 members of the Filipino community in Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city, to exercise caution.
Nigerian police fired shots and tear gas at thousands of supporters of an imprisoned Shiite cleric in Abuja just a day after three people were killed in similar clashes which sparked warnings to the government that a heavy-handed crackdown could radicalize the group.
At least six Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) supporters have now been killed since Saturday during protests calling for the release of Ibrahim Zakzaky who has been in custody since December 2015.
Nigerian police said 400 members of IMN were arrested, some of whom were carrying “dangerous weapons.”
According to an AFP correspondent at the scene, the march of several thousand IMN members in central Abuja was peaceful, though some unarmed protesters threw stones at police, who then fired into the crowd and used tear gas to stop the procession.
At least six wounded IMN members were taken away in cars while the area was patrolled by dozens of police.
“A lot of our people had been wounded, so far we don’t have any record of death,” IMN spokesman Ibrahim Musa said.
By Tuesday evening, the head of Abuja police Bala Ciroma reported that “a total of 400 members of IMN…who participated in the violent protest of today are currently being detained” for investigation, after which they would be arraigned in court.
He said “dangerous weapons were also recovered from them.”
Nigeria’s military said on Monday three IMN supporters were killed during another protest on the outskirts of Abuja.
The army said troops and police “repelled the attack” and that IMN “fired weapons” and threw stones and Molotov cocktails.
Photographs of the aftermath showed several civilians on the ground near police but it was unclear whether they were dead or injured.
On Saturday, three other IMN members were killed during protests in Abuja.
The army claimed the protesters attacked a military convoy and tried to steal weapons and ammunition – an account the IMN “categorically” denied.
IMN spokesman Musa claimed 27 people have been killed since Saturday and that the death toll could be higher since “scores” of people were wounded and troops took away others.
“We are working towards their release to us for burial,” Musa said.